Springfield – This week, the Governor vetoed legislation that would have imposed minor restrictions on the General Assembly scholarship award program, while the Auditor General released a highly critical audit of Illinois’ All Kids health insurance program, according to State Sen. Pamela Althoff (R-McHenry).
The recent audit of All Kids revealed mismanagement and administrative discrepancies, which may have cost taxpayers dearly. Though the report didn’t speculate on the amount of money lost to negligence and program inconsistencies, the audit found:
The audit also revealed that the state has spent a whopping $8 million on marketing All Kids in an effort to increase program enrollment. Initially, the total cost of marketing the program was estimated to be $3 million. According to the audit, there is no documentation to show why such an increase was necessary or justified.
Implemented in 2006 under former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the All Kids program guaranteed health insurance to all children in Illinois. Republican lawmakers at the time predicted the program would be costly, and suggested that stricter regulations be established.
For years, Sen. Althoff has advocated for increased income verification standards; currently, only one pay stub is required from program applicants—which was criticized in the audit as a poor representation of actual income. Senate Republicans have regularly introduced legislation that would require at least two consecutive pay stubs be required to determine eligibility.
Althoff has also encouraged the implementation of asset testing for All Kids applicants, much like those required from senior citizens and people with disabilities. These populations are required to meet asset tests for eligibility when applying for taxpayer-paid assistance.
Likewise, Althoff has consistently said that it is unfair that senior citizens and people with disabilities must provide verification of their immigrant status, but other populations are excused from this federal requirement. All Kids participants should provide information about immigrant status, which is a standard already in place for all other Medicaid-eligible groups. Not only would this put All Kids on a level playing field with other Medicaid-eligible populations, but the state would have a greater chance of receiving a federal match for the children enrolled.
Also this week, Gov. Pat Quinn vetoed Senate Bill 365, which would have placed limitations on applicants for the state’s much-criticized legislative scholarship program. Quinn rejected the measure, saying the program should be eliminated all together.
Though Althoff and Republican lawmakers voted for the legislation, they did so only after majority Democrats had blocked Republican-sponsored legislation to completely eliminate the program (SB 3652). Republicans noted that Quinn did not weigh in during the legislative debate, but instead waited until his party had killed the stronger reform bill and lawmakers had left town.
A number of legislators from both parties insisted that because legislators can award scholarships to whomever they want, with little oversight, the scholarship program can be used as a way to reward political donors and other influential supporters.
Additionally, the colleges must absorb the cost of the legislative scholarship program, which amounts to upwards of $12 million, or pass the cost of the program on to other students through increased tuition or fees.
Despite the problems inherent within the scholarship program, senators admitted that if Senate Bill 365 had been signed into law, it would have been a small step towards curtailing some abuses associated with the program. As of now, the status quo prevails.
Senate Bill 365 would have prevented a lawmaker from giving the scholarship to a student if an immediate family member has contributed campaign funds to that lawmaker during that calendar year, or any of the previous five calendar years. For lawmakers uncomfortable with the scholarship program, the legislation would have allowed them to forgo participation in the program.
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